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Fired Johns Hopkins professor won't work for Facebook after all

Key Points
  • Daniel Povey, a professor who was fired by Johns Hopkins University, on Friday said he will no longer go work at Facebook. 
  • Facebook told Povey on Thursday that he could work as a contractor for six weeks without permission to come onto Facebook's property.
  • Povey was slated to start working on speech recognition for Facebook out of the company's Seattle office on Monday, but he became a source of controversy after being fired by Johns Hopkins. 
Facebook told CNBC it has hired Daniel Povey, a speech recognition researcher who was fired this week from Johns Hopkins University.
Dan Povey

Fired Johns Hopkins professor Daniel Povey will not work for Facebook after all, he told CNBC on Friday.

In May, Povey used bolt cutters to attempt to forcibly enter one of the school's buildings that had been occupied by student protesters. The school informed him of his termination earlier this month. Afterwards, Povey published a note on his website in which he suggested that he was let go partly because he was a white man while the protesting students were minorities.

Povey was slated to start working on speech recognition for Facebook out of the company's Seattle office next Monday. But on Thursday, Facebook placed conditions on the hire that Povey didn't accept.

Specifically, Facebook told him that he could work as a contractor for six weeks without permission to come onto Facebook's property, Povey wrote in a note on his website. A full-time offer would be contingent on the results of a Facebook "investigation into what happened," Povey wrote.

"I declined that offer," Povey wrote in a note on his website.

In an email to Povey that Facebook shared with CNBC, the company explained it would normally never hire a person who was fired from his last job over safety issues. However, Povey had been working as a contractor for the company already, so it decided to give him a chance to continue his contract while the company investigated.

"This is a difficult position for us because under normal circumstances, we would not hire someone who was terminated for creating safety concerns at his last employer, but you have also been working for us for a year as a consultant with no issues, and so we believe we should make our own independent decision as to whether your conduct at JHU prevents us from hiring you," Facebook wrote.

When Johns Hopkins fired him, Povey posted a letter on his web site that included the line, "White males in this environment seem to be expected to constantly atone for their existence by telegraphing their exclusive concern for every demographic group but their own, like a neutered puppy-dog or some Justin Trudeau man-child."

Povey said he knew that writing such a letter could cost him his job with Facebook.

"Everyone around me was begging me to take it down," Povey wrote on Friday. "But I said, how can I tell others to man up and then be a coward myself?"

However, Facebook told Povey that its decision to do an independent review "had nothing to do with your political views."

Povey told CNBC he will likely seek employment from a foreign-owned company or a start-up.

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